Advance a little, refine a lot, refine a little, advance a lot.
Advancement and refinement go hand in hand, this week I have been using refinement to advance Sansas balance in trot and canter with me on board.
Sansa’s first canter in week 6 was everything I could have hoped for, relaxed and easy. Over the subsequent weeks I have been progressively improving different components of the canter. The most difficult part of refining an exercise, is choosing the component that I wish to improve and not getting caught up on the overall exercise itself.
This week Sansa and played in the round yard I worked on refining the components of our Canter, which included engagement, suppleness, balance and contact.
Monday Component – Canter transition. Engage forward, I don’t mind which lead Sansa takes, I don’t mind which bend she prefers, I want to make sure Sansa understands that when I give a canter cue in my seat there is nothing to worry about. If Sansa was happy to canter when I asked that was enough for Monday.
Tuesday Head and neck bend- Being able to place Sansa’s head and neck on the line that I want to ride is super important if I want her to bend around a circle. I always want to be able to use my elbows softly to bend Sansa’s head left and right even at canter.
On the ground I hold a short rein, bend my elbow and when Sansa’s head and neck follow the feel and contact on the rein I give her release. This is the first thing I do when I get on, before I softly bent her head and neck in walk, then in trot. Head and neck bends have been an awesome exercise this week to improve Sansas suppleness in canter.
Wednesday – Rib control (Balance). From week one Sansa has been very good at moving her ribs on the ground. Side step in the halter is something she learnt as soon as she was caught. (Clever Brumby).If Sansa made the mistake of taking her shoulders and ribs in on the circle, then this becomes the focus of the lesson.
First I make sure she understands how to move her rib away from my inside leg. I have found a great way to do this is to side step around objects such as soft safe covered hay bales, or even blue plastic barrels.
Once Sansa understands a rib cue, I allow her to make the mistake of falling all the way into the circle, before doing the opposite and moving her ribs all the way back to the line that we were riding. The key was to make sure I rewarded each side step with release until we got there.
Thursday- “Find the contact” I like to make sure Sansa has soft contact on the ground before I climb on board. I like to pick up and hold the bit, if Sansa pushes forward through my hand, I let her make the mistake before doing the opposite and moving her feet backwards. If Sansa lags backwards, I allow her to make the mistake before doing the opposite and motivating her forwards.
Once she was super confident at finding the contact at stand still on the ground, I could then use a soft outside contact (and my seat) in walk trot and canter to lengthen and shorten Sansas strides.
Friday we began to put things together, if Sansa made a mistake it was good because I had the opportunity to work on the individual component that she didn’t understand. By the end of the week not only could Sansa walk trot canter off my seat confidently in the round yard, but she had improved greatly in the arena and outdoor as well.